Straight Talk Advice

Thigh Gap: Caught between BeyoncĂ© and Victoria’s Secret

Sep 02, 2014

Just say no to #ThighGap

Dear Straight Talk: I’m happy to observe that today’s teens seem to see the ideal female form as more curvy and less pre-pubescent than in my youth. (Thank you, Beyoncé.) Then I learned of the latest baffling body-image obsession, the "thigh gap". Is a thigh gap really something for which young women strive, and do young men really find it attractive? — J.T., Redding, Calif.

Katherine 17, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I've never met a girl satisfied with her body. Until recently, my whole life was driven by self-criticism and media influence. Sure, stars like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian promote their bootylicious bodies, but the Victoria's Secret model still rules, even if subconsciously. The thigh gap trend was created to make girls feel good about being skinny and girls started posting theirs or celebrity thigh gaps on social media. Girls should strive to be healthy, not skinny.

Lyric 16, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

The thigh gap has become huge in social media to show how skinny you are. I admit, I wanted one, too, but I wasn't willing to starve myself to try and get one like some girls. I researched the thigh gap and for most humans, it's simply impossible. It has nothing to do with thinness, it's about bone structure. From then on, I accepted that it's equally beautiful to not have one.

Brie 23, San Francisco Ask me a question

I wear size “0”, thank you vanity sizing (sarcasm), but do not have a thigh gap. While some women naturally have one, most don't. Even very fit women don't. Being in shape is what matters, not if your thighs touch or not. Can you spell D-U-M-B?

Carmela 16, Davis, Calif. Ask me a question

Most guys I know do think it's attractive, but they also don't really care. If my friends or I want to be thinner, we think about our waistlines, not our thigh gaps.

Bella 17, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

Both curvy and skinny shaming are rampant and women are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about their looks. I've discussed thigh gaps with my male friends. Some love them, some hate them, and some are as confused as women about them. A reason for its popularity might be because of where it draws the eye. This topic affects me deeply, because a friend's thigh gap became a reason to call her a slut and whore. She was tormented for months and I was the only friend who stood beside her. Finally, I spoke to the bullies, her parents got involved, and the school put a stop to it.

Lyra 17, Sonoma, Calif. Ask me a question

Slogans promoting curviness such as “real women have curves”, don't mean it's accepted as the ideal form. Almost all models, celebrities and “desirable” women are thin. The real problem is that no matter WHERE a woman falls on the spectrum, she's not enough. If you're thin, you need a bigger ass, if you're not thin, you should be, and lacking a smallish waist, well, you're just fat and lazy. Even when we know better, the media's nonstop criticism is impactful.

Ryann 17, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

The thigh gap has become the symbol of a thin physique. Young girls insecure about their changing bodies are the most vulnerable. Many attempt unhealthy means of losing weight to attain it. I wish girls would worry about being healthy not skinny.

Dear J.T.: The thigh gap trend is right up there with foot binding in the stupidity department and deserves to be adducted into oblivion. The thigh gap IS strictly hereditary. If you're fit and don't have one, only starvation will create one. To males and females alike: We must grow out of these misogynistic practices. Please reject harmful stupidity and the media venues that promote it, and encourage others to do the same.

Editor's Note: Back in the "innocent" days of 1999, the hit song "Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen" by Baz Luhrmann was released containing the lyrics, "Don't read beauty magazines, they just make you feel ugly." Little did he, or Mary Schmich, who penned the words, know that social media was going to be invented a few short years later.

Beauty magazines? Yes, still bad for the soul, but kid's stuff compared to the unedited, unvetted, unaccountable Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr content where the "thigh-gap" phenomenon was born, bred, and shall we say, fattened? No we shall not! F-word not allowed.

According to a 2011 Haifa University study, looking at social media doesn't just make you feel ugly — or fat. The more time you spend looking at it, the more likely you are to develop an eating disorder. Other studies are showing the same thing about exposure to social media. This is some serious "feel-ugly/feel-fat" conditioning going on — from over 100 pro-anorexic sites and insatiable, nonstop, ever-changing exposure to uber-thin photoshopped models, celebrities, and affected girls posting selfies of their thigh gaps. This monster never sleeps.

The June 2014 Advances in Public Health article, "Eating Behaviours and Body Weight Concerns among Adolescent Girls" says that in the U.S. "11% of female adolescents regularly vomit their food after having it and 13% of them reported some form of purging behaviours like use of laxatives or diuretics for body weight control due to excessive concern over body weight."

The report also cites a Minnesota study revealing that "56% of 9th grade females and 28% of 9th grade males reported disordered eating behaviours such as fasting, vomiting, or binge eating."

Wow. And so many boys, too. This is insane. You boys need to start writing us more!

I know my advice is usually wasted on the young (Mary Schmich said that, too), but your life will be so much better, on so many levels, if you turn social media off — or at least cut back A LOT. It really does make you feel ugly. AND it uses up all your time! You could be getting daily exercise with a friend in real time, learning to cook real food, and reading good literature, which is shown to improve self image, too. There was sooo much more time for all this before social media. And people felt sooo much better about themselves. Give it try, not for me, for yourself. —Lauren

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  1. By Misty, age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 09/02/2014

    It’s true that many girls these days are obsessed with having a thigh gap, but I think it’s all for nothing.  After everything I had heard, I asked my boyfriend what he thought about it.  He didn’t even know what I meant, and I had to explain it to him!  When I did, he just laughed and said it’s not something he’s ever even though about and has never even heard any of his guy friends mention it when they talk about what they like in a girl’s looks and figure.

    Sad to say, my sister is one of those who is obsessed with having a gap and is practically starving herself so that she can have one. Even though she’s lost a great deal of weight and is very thin, she still has no gap even when she’s nude or in her thong.  She’s become so thin, it is making her unattractive, not more attractive.  We share a room and when she’s nude, I can see that she’s just skin and bones and I’m starting to worry about her health.

    It’s also become common at slumber parties I’ve gone to for girls who do have a gap to show it off by stripping down to their thong or even stripping all the way.  I don’t know who they thing they’re impressing, but it certainly doesn’t impress me, and I don’t get the feeling that it impresses the other girls, either.

    Misty

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  2. By R.F., age 17, from Santa Ana, CA on 09/02/2014

    I’m normal weight and exercise in order to keep a good figure and have never had a problem having boyfriends.  However, I’m big boned, and there is no way I will ever have a “gap,” so I don’t even try.  I couldn’t care less.  However, my stepsisters who do have gaps are very proud of it and think they are superior to me because of it.  When I have to share a room with them on visitations, they try to make me feel bad by showing off their gaps by being in just their thongs in front of me.  I’d rather not have to look at them this way so much, but it’s no big deal since we’re all girls and I just don’t let it bother me.

    R.F.

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  3. By Mark, age 16, from Lodi, CA on 09/03/2014

    As a guy, I can say that I couldn’t care less about whether a girl does or doesn’t have a thigh gap, and I don’t know any other guys who care about it either.  It does sound like it’s a major deal to my sisters and their friends.  The room they share is right next to mine and the walls in our apartment are very thin and I can hear everything that goes on in their room whether I like it or not, but I don’t think they realize it or they’d be more discreet.  I don’t go out of my way to eavesdrop, but unless I wear earplugs, I can’t help hearing things.  Thigh gaps are a major topic of conversation with them and with their friends and they all seem to be really concerned about it and think its a major deal for guys.  I actually wish that thigh gaps were the worst thing I had to hear about, but I have to listen to talk about things like shaving and waxing and even their menstrual periods, which I really don’t need (or want) to know about!  But I’m too embarrassed to tell them what I’ve been hearing that I don’t think they would want me to hear.  In some ways, I guess I’m lucky as I only have to hear things and don’t have to see things I shouldn’t be seeing like I’ve read about in Straight Talk.  Unlike some sisters I’ve read about, at least they keep their door closed and locked when they’re undressed and never walk around naked or in their thongs like some sisters apparently do (Thank God!).  They even lock our mom out when they’re undressed which is hard to understand, since from what I can hear it’s obvious that they don’t have a problem with nudity in front of each other or their friends, and they and their friends even look at each others shave and wax jobs and discuss them, but their own mom can’t come in when they’re undressed?  Go figure, but it’s really not my concern.  I just wish they would realize that they need to be more careful what they say with their brother right in the next room, but I realize that it could be worse.

    Mark

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    1. By Eric, age 16, from Westminster, CA on 09/04/2014

      I agree with Mark on both points.  Most guys don’t give a hoot about thigh gaps, and girls shouldn’t talk about their female parts in front of their brothers.

      Unlike Mark my room isn’t right next to my sisters’ room, so if they did their female talk in there with the door closed I wouldn’t have to hear it, and it would be fine.  But they talk about their female issues right in front of me, sometimes even at the dinner table, which is not very appetizing!  I’ve told them that I don’t want to hear about these things, but it just made it worse as one of my sisters started doing it even more just to embarrass me.  No way would I ever talk about my male parts in front of them, so I don’t think I should have to hear about their female parts.

      They don’t walk around naked in front of me like some girls I’ve read about in Straight Talk, but in the hot weather they often walk around the apartment in just a T-shirt and thong underwear.  It didn’t do any good to tell them that I don’t want to see this.  They laughed and said I’m not really seeing anything since the thong covers their privates, and our mom actually agreed with them!  No way would I walk around in my underwear in front of them even though they wouldn’t actually see “it.”  If they want to be in their thongs, I think they should stay in their room with the door closed.  Otherwise,  I think they should at least put on some short shorts which would not be that difficult and which they actually do when we have company, even FEMALE company, so why can’t they at least put on some shorts when they’re in front of me???

      Eric

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  4. By Cindy, age 16, from Fullerton, CA on 09/05/2014

    I’m glad to hear that the consensus is that thigh gaps don’t matter to most guys.  I really didn’t think it would, but so many girls seem to be concerned about it I was starting to wonder.

    I’m similar to R.F. and there’s no way I could ever have a gap so I don’t even try.  However, also similar to her, my sister who was born with a better figure than me does have a gap and thinks it makes her better than me.  She goes out of her way to show off her body in front of me in the room we have to share and smirks at my body when I’m naked.  You shouldn’t have to be embarrassed to be naked in your own room in front of your sister, but that’s the way I feel because of this, but it’s hard to never be naked in your own room.  Guys like me just as much as they like her, so this doesn’t seem to be making any difference and I’m a much better student, so I think I’m going to go much further than she will.  I would never put somebody down because she doesn’t have a gap.

    Cindy

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  5. By Ellen, age 17, from Petaluma, CA on 09/06/2014

    I don’t have a gap and my boyfriend couldn’t care less.  I don’t shave and wax either, and he also doesn’t care and actually says that he prefers the fact that I’m “natural” in that way.  However, it’s true that many girls think that having a gap and shaving and waxing somehow makes them “better” and like Misty says, some girls find it necessary to show off their gaps and their fancy shave and wax jobs at slumber parties.  I’m not a prude and don’t have a problem with nudity in front of other girls, but I do not believe in going out of my way to expose myself and trying to claim that I’m “better” than others.  I think that girls who do this must be very insecure.

    Ellen

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  6. By Curt, age 16, from Redding, CA on 09/06/2014

    I have a girlfriend for the first time and it doesn’t bother me in the least that she doesn’t have thigh gap.  I never even thought about it until I read this week’s column.  I also agree that girls should not talk about female things or expose their bodies to their brothers.  I guess I’m lucky compared to others I’ve read about.  My sisters never talk about female things in front of me and their room isn’t right by mine so I don’t hear what they say in there.  They also stay in their room when with the door closed they are undressed and are always dressed the rest of the time.  For me, being the only male in the apartment is actually an advantage for me, not a disadvantage.  I get my own room while my sisters have to share, although they are close and don’t seem to mind sharing.  We only have one bathroom and I get to use it in private while they have to share it in the morning on school days.  I know that they are sharing it even when they are “using the facility” as has been discussed in Straight Talk as I hear the toilet flush when they are in there but again, it doesn’t seem to bother them.  As long as I have my own room and get to use the bathroom in private what they do in their room and the bathroom doesn’t matter to me.

    Curt

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  7. By Lana, age 16, from Auburn, CA on 09/07/2014

    I stupidly got obsessed with having a gap and thought it was important because my sister has one and had a boyfriend and I didn’t.  However, her gap is so small you could only really tell when she was naked or in her thong in our room and she isn’t somebody who would let a guy see her that way, so that obviously isn’t the reason she had a boyfriend and I didn’t.  I starved myself so much that it was unhealthy and like Misty says, it actually was making me unattractive, not more attractive.  I finally gave up and got back to normal weight and decided to be comfortable with the body I was born with.  I now do have a boyfriend who couldn’t care less about something like this, so all the worrying about it and starving myself was for nothing!

    Lana

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  8. By Annette, age 66, from Windsor, CA, USA on 09/07/2014

    I’m almost 67 and have had a thigh gap all my life.  It has nothing to do with being thin.  It only has to do with anatomy.  When I was a teenager, I was ridiculed for having it, but was never able to get rid of it.  Even when I’ve been heavy, I still have it.  It is more pronounced when I’m thinner, but it’s always with me.  Now, in my 60’s, I’m “stylish”.  Girls, there’s more to life than striving to be someone else’s idea of beautiful as fads change.  Don’t waste your life trying to be someone or something else.  Be confident in who you are.  That’s the most beautiful thing in the world; self-confidence.

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